December 25 at Grace City Church Tokyo

Koto - Chieko Ozawa
Cello - Yoji Kohara
Organ - Roger Lowther
Voice - Winton White


The Scatterbrained Santa Claus

One of the best known Christmas songs for children in Japan is "Awatenbo no Santa Claus" ("The Scatterbrained Santa Claus"). I recorded Kaizen singing part of it. A free English translation (by me) of the meaning is below. (The song is full of fun onomatopoeia which I won't even try to translate...but the one of Santa hitting his head on the chimney on the way down is pretty funny!):

The Scatterbrained Santa Claus
Came to my house
And it wasn't Christmas yet!

The Scatterbrained Santa Claus
Tried peeking in my chimney
And then he tripped and fell in (and made his face all black)!

The Scatterbrained Santa Claus
Started to dance when he landed
Because what else would you do in that situation!

The Scatterbrained Santa Claus
Said sheepishly, "Well, I guess I'll be back!"
And then returned to where he came from!

The Scatterbrained Santa Claus
He sure is a funny old bearded man!


Christmas Party Singing

At the end of a Christmas party at our house for the Grace City Church Tokyo worship team and set-up team, we sang some Christmas carols together.


Children's Piano Studio Party

This December, we had a party for all the children who are studying piano. The teachers are Yukari, Ellie, Abi, and I. During the party, Yukari pulled out her pianica and started to play some jazz! Coen and I had a fun duet together.


Turkey and the Kingdom of Heaven

Since I was little, I have always loved the smell of turkey cooking in the oven on Thanksgiving. At breakfast, I would ask my mom, “Can I have some turkey?” She would answer, “It’s not ready yet.” I would ask again at lunch time, “Can I have some turkey now?” Again she would respond, “It’s still not ready.” The smell of the turkey made me long for the turkey. My mouth watered for the turkey. I could not wait for that Thanksgiving meal that I knew was coming but was still being prepared.

Lately, my son Aidan has been playing the Prelude in C Major by J. S. Bach. It is one of the most famous pieces written for the piano, because it is profoundly beautiful. But it is also incredibly simple. If you stop to study the piece though, you find that there is a surprising amount of ugly dissonance. The broken chords cause pain to our ears, functioning like the smell of turkey baking in the oven and driving us to that resolution which Bach eventually gives. In the end, the journey of dissonance and pain contributes to the beauty of the piece. Without it, the final chord would lose all meaning and significance.

What is the role of art in mission? It shares the gospel truth that beauty will come out of pain and suffering. Art makes us yearn for resolution to the dissonance in our lives and assures us that one day we will indeed find it. Art gives us that mouth-watering sense of already tasting what is to come. Art makes us yearn for that perfect peace promised by the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

As you smell turkey baking this Thanksgiving, remember the ultimate banquet that is being prepared for you that will fulfill every desire. May our Thanksgiving feast and fun whet our appetites for the ultimate satisfaction of fellowship around God's table.


The Reclining Buddha

One of the most popular sites in Bangkok is Wat Pho, the center of the traditional Thai massage. A Thai massage is nothing like the relaxing massage for shoulders or feet that most people think of. Rather, it is a "participatory sport" involving the whole body that one Thai friend jokingly referred to as yoga for lazy people. It is an ancient healing system combining (quite painful) acupressure and assisted stretching using the hands, knees, and feet of the physician to compress, pull, and stretch the muscles.

Wat Pho was established in the late 1700's as the first public university in Thailand to preserve and teach knowledge, including the established techniques of Thai massage, the study of complete physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This knowledge can know be found inscribed in rock on the walls of the buildings, mapping out points and pathways of energy in the body.

Wat Pho is also home to the Reclining Buddha, a 150 ft long statue shining brightly with heavenly gold leaf that surrounds the structure. It is hard not to be moved by the awesome presence of the scene—a man lying down in the final moments of his life with a serene smile on his face. In the midst of suffering from illness and certain death, the Reclining Buddha has found complete peace. He lies there solid, calm, compassionate, and above all, complete.

In this statue, Buddha exudes the message, “I’ve done it. It’s over. It is finished.” Looking at this statue, my thoughts turned to the last moments of Jesus’ life. What a contrast! Bleeding and dying on the cross, in the midst of suffering and certain death, Jesus cried, “It is finished.” Jesus’ last moments ended in complete agony. And yet, Jesus hangs there on the cross also compassionate and complete.

Jesus tells us the way to complete well-being in our bodies and lives is not through our own efforts but only through his efforts. Jesus lost his serene smile and suffered so that we could rest and have the glorious calm of heaven.

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, KJV)

Thai massage and deep meditation is wonderful, but Jesus tells us we cannot heal ourselves. We need the attention of the great physician to cure and eradicate cancerous sin from our bodies and souls. We need the hands and feet of Jesus to work on us and give us a taste of this peace that surpasses all human understanding. Because of his suffering sacrifice, we too can finally have a serene smile, knowing and experiencing the complete shalom of heaven.


The Anguish of Bach

Michael, who is interning with us from Alabama, took these photos of me explaining the anguish of Bach to a large group in West Tokyo last weekend. When I asked him to capture the event, this isn't exactly what I meant...